Padraig Harrington thinks major golf titles are like buses – “when you get one a few more arrive very quickly”.
All the one-hit wonders might not agree, but that is certainly how it turned out for him after he broke through in the 2007 Open and now the 40-year-old Dubliner is hoping it proves true again.
Harrington’s victory at Carnoustie five years ago came two months after he lifted the Irish Open and he had his eyes on the same prize entering today’s third round at Royal Portrush.
The three-major winner has not tasted European Tour success since the 2008 US PGA Championship, but was eighth at The Masters in April and then fourth at the US Open two months ago.
On 10 under par at halfway Harrington trailed Frenchman Gregory Bourdy by two and was sure of tremendous support from a sell-out crowd lapping up the first staging of the event north of the border since 1953.
Not that he is putting too much pressure on himself to deliver.
“As much as I would dearly love to win, it doesn’t have to be this week,” he said after his second successive 67.
“I know they are around the corner and they tend to come like buses. I’ll win more in the future – just be patient and let it happen.
“My three majors were distinctly different. I came out of the pack at Carnoustie (Sergio Garcia had been well clear), then at Birkdale I was the favourite I assume going into the last round.
“Maybe that’s the position I’m in now and as professional golfers we have to deal with all of these things all of the time.
“We have to apply ourselves and do our own thing. But I will enjoy the crowds - I will make an effort to let myself be helped by the crowd and to be drawn into it.”
Harrington played the opening two rounds with Graeme McDowell, one of the three local stars – Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke are the others, of course – whose own major triumphs have been instrumental in bringing the event back to Northern Ireland.
“It sounded like an Open Championship coming down 18,” he added. “The crowds are clapping you from 140 yards short of the green.
“They clapped us all day going on to every green, but particularly the last six when the rain went away and the umbrellas came down. We all appreciate it. It’s nice to play golf events amongst big crowds.”
McDowell and McIlroy resumed today five under and Clarke was one further back, having made a halfway cut for the first time this season.
Bourdy, the world number 175, has not had a top-10 finish all year, but is a three-time winner on the circuit and practised with Clarke on Tuesday to learn what he could about the course.
England’s Mark Foster was in second place overnight at 11 under and alongside Harrington were Italian Lorenzo Gagli and another of the English contingent, Paul Waring.
Just to be playing again after more than a year out injured was a thrill for the 27-year-old from Birkenhead.
He had wrist surgery last June and then had his return delayed by nerve problems.
“I only started practising fully three weeks ago and played only two rounds before coming here,” Waring said.
“I’ve been bored out of my head and like a bear with a sore head, but now I’m having such a laugh. It’s just great to be back.”